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From 'Batman' to 'Peacemaker': The 10 best DC Comics TV shows
From Batman to Doom Patrol, these are the best DC Comics shows ever to hit the small screen.
This week, Doom Patrol returns for a fourth very strange season on HBO Max, continuing the saga of what's become known as one of the most beloved and acclaimed shows ever based on a DC Comics property.
Though it's certainly doing its own thing in terms of worldbuilding and characters, Doom Patrol is the latest entry in a very long tradition of DC Comics-inspired television stretching back decades, and its impending return got us thinking about all the other great shows DC properties have given us over the years. So, in honor of the return of the world's strangest heroes, here are our picks for the 10 best DC Comics TV shows of all time (so far). These shows are presented in the order in which they premiered.
The '66 Batman gets a bad rap: For decades this intentionally silly show has been ridiculed as something that the darker Batman stories that followed it had to overcome and overlook. But, true fans of the Caped Crusader know that there's room for many interpretations of Batman, including Adam West's memorable time under the cowl. From its scenery-chewing supporting cast to its penchant for placing giant labels on each and every gadget to come out of the Batcave, it's a remarkably fun, self-aware series even almost 60 years after its debut. It's been great to see the show return to beloved status in recent years, because it always deserved to be there.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
Yes, there are many valid interpretations of Batman, but for many fans, it never got better (and never will get better) than The Animated Series. Developed in the wake of Tim Burton's big-screen success with the character, Batman: TAS brought a compelling art deco art style to Gotham City, assembled a phenomenal voice cast led by the late Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as The Joker, and told compelling, often remarkably mature stories that were always grounded in the raw emotion of Batman, but never forgot to have fun. This might be as good as Batman stories ever get, and that's really saying something.
Batman Beyond (1999)
The success of Batman: The Animated Series meant that we would see no shortage of Batman animation in the years following the show's debut, as evidenced by the numerous other Batman animated films and TV shows that followed. But while each of those shows brought their own power to the story of the Dark Knight, arguably no follow-up ever did it better than Batman Beyond. With a look that felt like a natural outgrowth of the TAS aesthetic and a concept that allowed the story to continue without ever sacrificing the integrity of the original series, Beyond brought a new generation of Batman fans to a new vision of Gotham, one that's still paying off with new stories today.
Justice League and Justice League Unlimited (2001)
Each new series in the DC Animated Universe that took shape in the 1990s gave viewers a front-row seat to DC Comics lore in its own way, which meant it was only a matter of time before all that lore converged into a single show. Justice League followed in the grand tradition of the Batman and Superman animated series with a string of epic stories that brought in dozens of heroes, villains, and other supporting characters for a roster that just kept growing by the time Justice League Unlimited came around. If you watched it, you got a top-shelf education in DC Who's Who, and you had a blast doing it.
When Arrow first launched on The CW, it felt a bit like a Batman show without Batman, the story of a brooding rich guy who went out into the world, learned some stuff, and came back home to be a vigilante. But over the course of its first few seasons, Arrow built itself into something much bigger, and eventually became the launching pad for a vibrant, diverse comic book universe that's still paying off on the network a decade later. For a show that could have played it safe and done just fine, it certainly took quite a few big swings, and in the process became a vital piece of superhero media.
Legends of Tomorrow (2016)
Arrow spawned a number of spinoff shows, some of which are still airing, but they never got wilder or more conceptually ambitious than Legends of Tomorrow. Much like Doom Patrol, Legends was willing to not just go to some truly bonkers places, but to wring every last bit of emotion out of those places along the way, no matter how strange things might get. It's a formula that worked very well and led to some very compelling stories. No wonder fans are still hoping the now-canceled series will get a reprieve.
Doom Patrol (2019)
The reason we're here today, Doom Patrol remains one of the most impressive and ambitious shows to come out of the world of DC Comics, even when factoring in just how strange and imaginative the comic which inspired it was. Packed with moments of unbelievable worldbuilding, audacious comedy, and a heart that just keeps swelling, it's one of those shows which feels like you might have dreamed it, so you just have to keep pinching yourself while you watch.
We were never supposed to get a sequel to Watchmen, particularly decades after Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' original limited series landed, so there was certainly a healthy degree of skepticism surrounding Damon Lindelof's efforts to craft a follow-up. Then HBO's Watchmen finally landed, and what we got was absolutely gobsmacking: An incisive, inventive, constantly surprising new take on a classic story, complete with some very unexpected revelations and worldbuilding with which we're still obsessed.
Harley Quinn (2019)
Three years ago was a great time for new DC TV shows for adult audiences. Harley Quinn could have been a one-note joke, the story of the title character (Kaley Cuoco) setting off on her own after breaking up with Joker and deciding to make a name for herself as a supervillain. But through a combination of great writing, great animation, and great voice acting, the show became so much more, the story of not just one character, but several lovable misfits chasing happiness, no matter where it might take them.
Leave it to James Gunn to take a pompous tough guy from The Suicide Squad and turn him into the star of one of the most thoughtful and raucously funny superhero shows around. Thanks to Gunn's writing and direction and John Cena's soulful work as the title character, Peacemaker immediately drew us. Then a wild central story for season one, a great ensemble, and lots of big surprises did the rest. We can't wait for Season 2.
Looking for more superhero action? Stream Heroes on Peacock.